When Ringling College of Art & Design student Jada Wing Hang Poon wrote a short film called Code Red for her screenwriting class, she had no clue it would become the full-fledged, student alumni project that it is today.
Poon wrote Code Red as a senior and began filming, but when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, she was forced to shut down production. She didn't think that her short film about the struggles of being a young woman getting her period for the first time would ever come to life.
Code Red originated as an act of spite. Poon was feeling unwell in class due to her own period and began scribbling notes about the trials and tribulations of being a woman and experiencing "that time of month." Her film follows middle-schooler Karman, who gets her period for the first time at school. She skips class with her friend Tiffany to search for a menstrual pad, and the movie shows the bittersweet experience of growing up through metaphorical imagery.
Her script became a playful, comedic take on a serious issue called "period poverty."
"Period poverty involves lack of access to feminine products in underprivileged areas of the country and world," Poon explains. "There are many public schools where young women do not have access to pads, tampons and other educational resources that inform and empower them about their own bodies. I wanted to create something that highlights these issues."
A year later, Ringling staff reached out to Poon—who by that point had graduated—to see if making Code Red was something she'd like to pursue. In the summer of 2021, she returned to Sarasota from her new home in Toronto and began the filming process. She hired on Ringling alumni as her crew and auditioned middle school actors from around Florida until she found her perfect cast of seven talented kids. The film was shot in five days at Girls, Inc.'s Sarasota County campus and in studio at Ringling College. All necessary Covid-19 protocols were in place, including regular cast and crew testing and mask-wearing, at Girls, Inc. in Sarasota County and in studio on the Ringling Campus.
Eighty percent of the crew and 60 percent of the cast were female, Poon says, a subconscious choice, but one that she feels offered great insight to the film.
While Code Red is not available to the public yet, Ringling College hosted a roundtable event on Tuesday, Jan. 18 with cast members and a live showing of the film. Poon expects the film to come out in June 2022 on YouTube and Vimeo. Code Red has also been submitted to several national film festivals.
Code Red also has a Facebook page that highlights some of the national organizations Poon and other crew members are getting involved with that support women's rights and help to eliminate period poverty. This ranges from providing pads and tampons in school and community center restrooms to going to Congress and fighting for the elimination of the "pink tax"—that is, taxation of feminine products sold in stores.
"Ultimately, I want people to be able to casually mention they are on their period, without everyone feeling grossed out or feeling ashamed," says Poon. "Periods are a natural thing and I want to normalize them. I believe this film could help start some conversations toward that change."
She hopes that all people who get periods will relate to this lighthearted film about growing up.
"I wanted to write something fun, something coming-of-age," Poon adds. "I hope that whoever watches Code Red can find something they can relate to."